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Alternative waste reduction ideas

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The corona virus has interrupted just about every single part of our everyday lives, including changes to our waste and recycling services.

We are all experiencing varying degrees of change to the services and collections we receive from our local authorities, as they navigate through these challenging times to continue to operate safely and efficiently.

Many waste services are being hit by a reduced workforce, due to sickness or self-isolating. Maintaining an efficient service has meant some collections have been streamlined with some concentrating on household waste disposal and hitting the pause button on recycling. While some downstream waste service providers, including treatment plants that recycle waste electricals, have also taken the decision to temporarily reduce or stop services to protect their staff who are unable to safely distance from co-workers while they carry out their duties.

The majority of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs or tips) have been closed to ensure social distancing for the public and the workforce. Some sites may still be open but this is only be for general waste and restrictions will apply to bulky goods and white goods.

Consider for a moment how you usually recycle your unwanted or old electrical appliances. For many of us this involves a trip in a vehicle to a HWRC, different containers are usually provided for the various types of products – each item is then placed in the correct container under direction from the site’s operational staff. Some items may be heavy, bulky household white goods such as washing machines and fridges which may require physical assistance to help with the unloading and storage of these items.

If you’re thinking about what to do with unwanted electrical products during the lockdown, consider the following:

Nobody should be flytipping any sort of waste, even leaving it outside the gates of a licensed waste site is considered flytipping! In the case of some old electricals, they may also contain substances which are harmful to the environment if not removed and treated properly. Flytipping also costs your local authority more money to clean it up and this is ultimately paid for by the public.

Do not fly-tip your unwanted electricals or leave them somewhere in the hope that they get removed e.g. on the street, beside litter bins, or outside charity shops.

Please do not throw any items into your general waste wheelie bin. Disposing of unwanted electrical and electronic items with your household waste will result in the loss of valuable materials which can be recycled to supply key industrial sectors and applications. We need to make sure that as much recyclable material as possible are still maintained for use at a later stage.

Do not leave large items on the street in the hope they will get collected. This could lead to theft and improper treatment by unlicensed operators. The impact of improper treatment may mean pollution to our air, soil and watercourses which can have a serious impact on human health.

Always follow your local authority’s advice on how to deal with your unwanted electricals. Check their website, Twitter and Facebook pages for updates on which sites are open and what collection services are operating.

If you want to use a HWRC site to recycle unwanted electricals, read any local authority guidance available on their website before visiting the site. Only take the journey, if it is essential and the local authority say that they are still accepting waste electrical appliances (WEEE). Follow their rules about how to behave on site. At the site, observe notices and signs and keep to the rules about using the site. Remember that site staff are there to help but need to be able to maintain social distancing as well.

Finally, whilst you are unable to recycle, please hold onto your unwanted electrical items and batteries. Do not place electrical items and batteries in your general waste bin as this will not allow them to be recycled properly and increases the risk of fires at receiving centres. Instead store items responsibly until you are able to recycle them correctly.

Other tips for waste reduction:

  • Some councils have removed the food waste collection, so instead why not try home composting using your leftover food items. More information on the best way to start achieving your own garden compost visit RHS: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=444
  • Keep any unwanted textile items at home or in the garage/shed until charity shops reopen or repurpose old clothes https://www.loveyourclothes.org.uk/refashion-upcycle
  • Cut back on unnecessary internet shopping, reduce the amount of packaging needing to be recycled
  • Free up space in your recycling bins by flattening and folding cardboard and washing and squashing all plastic containers and cans
  • Reuse items such as jars and wine bottles for planting, flowers or 70s candle holders
  • Reuse envelopes for sending a nice surprise to a family member or a friend you’ve not been able to see for a while – spread the joy!
  • Repurpose cardboard toilet rolls into seed trays
  • Save the big clear out for after the lockdown. Although tempting to start emptying all the cupboards, consider where you are going to store all the items post clear out while HWRCs and charity shops remain closed.

We would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to our key waste workers who continue to operate throughout this period.

Share your waste reduction tips with us on Twitter at @REPIC_UK


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